What’s up with Jordyn: how far away is this thunderstorm?

GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) – Did you know that thunder and lightning go hand in hand and they never go apart. This is because the lightning itself actually creates the sound of thunder.

For this reason, we can calculate how far a thunderstorm is from where we are.

Once lightning passes through the atmosphere, the air around it heats up and cools down in a fraction of a second. This expansion and contraction of air creates a sound wave, which we hear and call thunder. Even though lightning strikes only one spot on the ground, the flash of light is able to travel farther distances.

What’s really interesting is the fact that the first roar of thunder you hear comes from the lightning closest to you. The continued rumblings of thunder after the initial one come from more distant lightning. A rapid crackle of lightning means the lightning has stayed nearby. If you just hear a roar of thunder, the lightning is several miles away. A huge “boom” noise is the lighting coming in contact with the ground.

Lightning can be seen instantly for several miles, but it takes five seconds for thunder to travel a single mile. Knowing the thunder’s travel time can help calculate how far away the lightning is from where you are.

It’s also a super simple calculation. No need for a calculator. All you do is count how many seconds pass between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder that results. For example, if we just saw lightning and count five seconds until we hear thunder, we just take 5/5. The lightning you saw is a mile away.

While it’s pretty handy to calculate how far away a thunderstorm is, it’s never a good idea to stay outside as soon as you hear thunder or see lightning. Be careful and remember these lightning safety tips.

About Roberto Frank

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